[On screen: The Publicity Department Norwich Union Insurance Societies present Anniversary Highlights. Produced by A. P. Cooper.]
It almost seemed as if nature had put on her prettiest early summer dress in June 1958, in honour of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society, which was then being commemorated.
Invitations had been issued to the conference delegates for the various social functions and the Life Society's main building in Surrey Street had the house flag proudly flying aloft.
The next morning, Thursday, started off dull and drizzly as the ladies left their hotels for a tour of Norwich Cathedral. In the meantime, the head office officials and the delegates to the conference had been present at an interesting ceremony in the Life Office garden, which included a symbolic stone laying.
Mr T R Bennett, of T P Bennett & Son the architects, was present as Sir Robert referred to major developments which are envisaged in the course of the next 50 years on the Island Site bounded by Surrey Street, All Saints Green, and Westlegate.
Sir Robert said he hoped most of those present would see the first phase of this big scheme brought to completion and that indeed many of them would live to see the whole scheme carried through.
Then, when both Mr Draper and Sir Robert had checked that the stone was perfectly level, the president formally declared it well and truly laid.
The inscription on the stone reads: THIS STONE WAS LAID BY SIR ROBERT BIGNOLD DL [Deputy Lieutenant] JP [Justice of the Peace], PRESIDENT AND CHAIRMAN NORWICH UNION INSURANCE SOCIETIES, TO MARK THE 150th ANNIVERSARIES OF THEIR FOUNDATION IN 1797 AND 1808 BY THOMAS BIGNOLD AND A FURTHER STAGE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR HEAD OFFICES, JUNE 1958.
Here is the silver trowel used for the ceremony with its special engraving, which includes a drawing of the great new block of offices of glass and stone, steel and concrete, nine stories high, which is designed ultimately to accommodate a staff of 2,000.
It will stand within a stone’s throw of the Georgian house from the ground floor of which Sir Samuel Bignold used to conduct the Victorian business of the Norwich Union with a staff of only 10 clerks.
This is what the main entrance, the 11-storey tower, and the shorter curved front at the southern end, that is, at the junction of All Saints Green and Surrey Street, will one day look like.